Rodney Fitch, Chairman

Report by Rodney Fitch (above)

Lois Jacobs, Chief executive officer

Lois Jacobs (above)
Chief executive officer

The past year for Fitch was a paradox. On the one hand, it was another year of truly outstanding creative performance under the leadership of our CCO, Tim Greenhalgh, in which we delivered some of our best work ever. Across all our studios the quality of our work was recognised, winning three ‘store of the year’ awards for different clients and projects. But this strong creative performance did not translate into an equally strong financial outcome. A reason for this is our commitment to the world of shopping. The retail sector is at the forefront of most national economies and, although we are a multidisciplinary agency, Fitch is heavily committed to the consumer shopping experience where for much of 2008, the worldwide retail economy was slowing and neither our clients in this sector, nor we, were spared.

But if the retail economy is the first to suffer in a consumer downturn, so too is it likely to be the first to recover. And here I am reminded that 120 years ago during an earlier period of economic and social tension, William Morris, one of Britain’s greatest designers and an important social reformer, delivered a lecture in Birmingham, England, “Upon the nature of Art and Design”. During questions he was asked, “What is the purpose of design?” to which Morris replied “to give hope, Madam, to give hope.”

open quoteBe it in small incremental steps or in major breakthroughs, design is the handmaiden of innovation and is its physical expressionclose quote

In today’s chaotic world, where we see national economies bankrupt, businesses failing and brands weakening, all of us need a little hope and it is this very need which gives me confidence. For hope, in the form of design is what Fitch does. Design reflects most closely the human experience of everyday; it is in every aspect of consumers’ lives; their homes, shops, clothes, books, cars – simply everything. Furthermore, be it in small incremental steps or in major breakthroughs, design is the handmaiden of innovation and is its physical expression. It is through innovation that design can help lead our clients out of their current uncertainties by expressing hope to a troubled yet expectant consumer.

We must anticipate that both society and the commercial world, emerging in the near future from the wreckage of today’s landscape will be changed, led by a different, more demanding and critical consumer. Through the quality of our work across the globe for brands in the manufacturing and retail economies, I am confident Fitch will continue to offer hope, through the medium of innovation and design, as did William Morris 120 years ago.

Finally, two important management developments. Firstly, during 2008 Fitch joined WPP’s Branding to Design (B to D) Group. This places Fitch within a network of seven of the world’s most illustrious design agencies, to be a part of what is surely the world’s most powerful and global network. Secondly, this will be the last Fitch report from me. In April 2009 I handed the reins of CEO over to Lois Jacobs. I will continue to serve as chairman.

Long live design and that sense of hope which is its very embodiment.